What Does Pre-Transit Mean For Online Shipping?

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If you’re an Etsy customer or an Etsy business owner, or if you shop online anywhere at all, you’ve probably seen “pre-transit” or “package acceptance pending” on the tracking of your packages at some point. But what exactly does that mean, and when should you be concerned about it?

Pre-Transit on a shipping label in the US means that the label has been purchased, but the package hasn’t been scanned into the postal system yet. It’s possible that a package that has been dropped off at the post office will still say pre-transit on the tracking if the postal employees haven’t scanned it into the system. It’s also possible for a package that’s moving in the system to say pre-transit if it misses the original scan.

Most of the time, a package will only be marked as being pre-transit until it’s scanned into the system, which shows that the post office has it.

But sometimes things do happen, and a package will show up as being pre-transit even though it’s been delivered.


What does pre-transit mean on Etsy shipping?

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What does pre-transit mean on Etsy?

When an order on Etsy is marked as being pre-transit it usually means that the seller has purchased the label but hasn’t sent it yet. This can also show up on the tracking as “label created, not yet in system.” Since shop owners are able to buy postage at home using Etsy shipping labels or other services, there will naturally be a time gap between the time that the label is purchased and when it’s sent.

Label created but not in the system yet, but it was delivered to the customer!
Label created but not in the system yet, but it was delivered to the customer!

When the package is taken to the post office and the employees there scan it into the system, the tracking will update to “shipment received, package acceptance pending,” which shows that they have it.

It will still say pending acceptance because the actual acceptance scan is done beyond the counter at the post office, sometimes later at the transit station, where the packages are all scanned into the system officially.

Shipment received, package acceptance pending.

Both of the package tracking notifications above are from packages that the post office has, and in the case of the “label created” one, that package was delivered to the person who ordered it!

Sometimes a scan is missed, and that will mean that the package moves through the system without the tracking being updated along the way.



Why does my Etsy order still say pre-transit?

An Etsy order can say pre-transit or acceptance pending until it’s scanned into the system officially, even if the post office has the package. It can also say that it’s pre-transit if the seller hasn’t taken the package to the post office yet even though the label has been purchased.

As I mentioned above, I’ve had packages that were delivered that weren’t scanned at all, and I only noticed it when the customer left a review for the item but the tracking said that it hadn’t been delivered!

Pre-transit on an order that was delivered!

In fact, the photo above shows a package that was delivered but never got a scan along the way, so it looks like I never mailed it.

On the other hand, there are some sellers who will print labels out, then not go to the post office until a few days later.

I don’t recommend that you purchase your shipping labels until you’re going to take them to the post office, but not everyone works that way.

If you’re an Etsy customer whose package says pre-transit or acceptance pending for more than a few days, you should contact the seller to make sure that the package was taken to the post office.

You can also use the tracking number to sign up for tracking updates, and that will usually get the package into the system with a scan so that you can see where it is.

If the seller says that they definitely took the package to the post office then it’s probably on the way. But if signing up for tracking updates doesn’t help, and it’s past the time when the package should have been delivered, you might want to contact them again to see if filing a missing mail report can be done.

For an article that goes over how to handle post office shipping problems, click here.



How long does pre-transit take?

As a general rule, the pre-transit status will last until the package is officially scanned into the postal system, sometimes at the transit hub facility. Pre-transit/acceptance pending can stay on the tracking for a few hours, or in the case of the tracking not being scanned in and updated, for the entire time that the package is in transit.

If the package doesn’t update to “in-transit” within a day or two of the package being dropped off at the post office, that can mean that it’s missed the initial scan at the hub.

Signing up for the tracking updates can help with that, but sometimes it just takes longer for things to flip to “in-transit.”

If the tracking says that the status is “shipment received, package acceptance pending” like the video above shows, that means that the package is at the post office and is in the system.

When the package is scanned in at the postal hub for that area, it should switch to an in-transit status on the tracking.



What does in transit mean on Etsy?

When the package is officially in the system and has been scanned in at the hub, the status will change to “in-transit,” and you’ll know that the package is officially moving. This sometimes takes longer than you would expect, but it also doesn’t mean that the package isn’t moving.

“In-transit” is basically the status that shows that the order is on the way, and in general, it’s going to be the normal status that shows up every time the order is taken to the post office.

When a problem arises, which does happen occasionally, in-transit status might end up taking longer than it should.

In transit, but the package was delivered and reviewed.
It says in transit, but the package was delivered and reviewed.

Occasionally a package will be delivered and reviewed by the customer, but the tracking still says “in transit.”

I checked my orders and it wasn’t hard to find examples of packages that had been reviewed by the customers, which clearly means that they were delivered, but that still said “in transit” or “pre-transit.”

Mistakes happen, and the post office delivers so many packages it makes sense that there will be a few problems every now and then.

Another in-transit problem can be the packages that say they’re moving, but they’re delayed.

If the status changes to “in-transit, arriving late” then you know that there’s going to be a delay for the delivery, and that can be a problem that the post office has to solve.

Again, signing up for the tracking notifications can help, but every now and then a package will just stop moving.

If that happens, the in-transit status can stay on the tracking but no additional updates will show up. This will show that the package is pretty much stuck, and the customer and seller will have to figure out how to handle it.

With Etsy’s Purchase Protection Program, it may be possible to be refunded for the delivery, but you have to fit the criteria for that to apply.



How to mark a pre-transit order as shipped on Etsy.

If you have a package that’s stuck with a pre-transit status, and you know that you shipped it, you might want to update the tracking to “shipped,” but there’s no way to do that on Etsy. It can be a good idea to contact the customer to let them know that you did mail it, and that you’re keeping an eye on the movement of the package.

You can generally wait until the normal delivery window and see if it gets scanned in when it’s delivered.

The delivery scan is sometimes the only scan that a package will get along the way, but that scan will verify the delivery and you won’t have to worry that it wasn’t being tracked along the way.

You should also sign up for the tracking updates on the post office website, because they’ll send you email updates and it will be easier to track whether it’s actually moving or not.

The tracking updates will also let you know where the package is, since a pretty common problem of delayed packages is when they’re sent on a weird route.

Doing these things can basically make the tracking change to “shipped” automatically because it will update along with the post office.

Sometimes the USPS website is more current than Etsy’s system, though, so if it doesn’t say in-transit on Etsy, you might get more information if you click on the tracking number to see what it says on the official site.


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Kara Buntin

Kara Buntin has run a profitable home-based business since 1999, and has a background in art, theater design, and cake decorating. She's a top Etsy seller with over 51,000 sales on Etsy and her own website, and helps other home-based business owners with their business goals and SEO. She founded the Artisan Shopping Directory website to promote the artisans who are members of her EShop Success marketing program.

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